The Drive to Live by Robic Upadhayay

Photo: Robic Upadhayay/

THE DRIVE TO LIVE: Deepa Budhathoki, 32, is a Safa Tempo driver who drives the New Road-Baneswor 6 KM-route. Originally from Gaighat, Udaypur, she has been a Safa Tempo driver for 12 years and used to make an average of 8 trips every day pre-pandemic. Driving the tempo has given her financial independence and joy. Her husband works in Saudi Arabia, but she was not dependent on him. Budhathoki earns money to pay off her loans, pay rent for her room in Baneswor, and support her brother and daughter.

This changed when Nepal imposed a nation-wide lockdown in March. Her tempo was in the garage for five months. Now Budhathoki is unable to repay her loans, she is struggling to pay her rent and worries about how she will pay her daughter’s school fees. “I am fortunate that my husband has been able to retain his job and can help us survive, but it is difficult to sustain a life in the city,” says Budhathoki.

In July, Nepal lifted the nation-wide lockdown. Budhathoki took her tempo out after five months and was roaring to go. Soon after the country opened, the rate of infection surged again, so the government shut down the county one more time. Last week Budhathoki made her last trip and parked the tempo in the garage, “Even with the precautionary measures, we are at risk all the time and I really don’t want to carry the virus back to my family,” she says, “Who knows how long I am going to be out of work again.”

Photos and Text: Robic Upadhyay @aerawbic
Edit: Mallika Aryal @mikaness

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